Dog Legs on the Counter: The Belfair Water District Story

Mike Pope holds up the envelope prepared for him by BWD employee Jennifer Tipton. She said it was an accident, that she’s made similar handwriting mistakes with at least one other name.

Last week I gave you a rundown of what’s happening in the Belfair Water District. I’m on vacation this week, but I thought I’d share with you some of the continuing volleys since last Tuesday.

Let me lay down the context first: This was a water district beset by turmoil between one commissioner, Mike Pope, and his two fellow commissioners and the district manager, Dave Tipton, before January. Now Pope’s antagonists on the board of commissioners are gone, replaced by residents more aligned with Pope. Tipton has leverage in the form of an employment contract that gets him two years’ severance if he quits for any reason other than getting another job and three if he is fired for anything other than a felony.

Perhaps if you read this story you’ll have a general idea of where things were, then this one will tell you where they were as of Wednesday.

The second story recounts how Jennifer Tipton, Dave’s daughter and BWD employee, gave Pope an envelope that had his name misspelled. It’s in the photo.

On Thursday I received more emails.

Pope sent an email to Tipton asking him to not use Pope’s personal email account and based on the verbiage he had asked before and told Tipton if he thought he was being “cute,” he wasn’t. Tipton replied with his “sorry,” then asked Pope to refrain from “personal attacks.”

Tipton sent to District attorney Brian Snure one of the three reports that had been requested to be finished earlier in the week and said he hoped to have another one done later that day.

Tipton also wrote me and said commissioners do have keys to the commission chambers, which I don’t think my story disputed. He also said commissioners have keys to bathrooms in the district shop outside the main building, so bathrooms are available at district meetings.

There was an exchange between Tipton and Pope about the Humane Society’s request for a letter of support. Tipton recommended it. I haven’t seen the earlier correspondence so I don’t know how it was communicated, but Pope apparently saw it as a request for contribution and he suggested Tipton donate out of his own pocket. Tipton clarified the request, then Pope said put it on the agenda.

You may recall that Tipton’s contract allows him to have his dog in his office. Pope, in asking that the support letter be put on the board’s agenda, had comments about dogs in the office. I copied and pasted. “Last time I was in the office it looked like BWD was running a shelter for dogs, please refrain from allowing dogs to jump on counter when customers are in the office, perhaps they need to be outside. I went to My Pet Needs That, and got the dogs in the shelter a few toys and beds.” Tipton responded: “Your comments are not appropriate. There is not a dog here who can physically jump on the counter.”

Later on Thursday new commissioner Jill Satran-Loudin responded: “I have came to the office and had the dogs jump on the counter more than once, with there front legs,in fact the dog did that this morning when I came to drop off petty cash and also signed three checks that needed to be signed.
commissioner, Jill Satran-Loudin”. In the only e-mail action I saw from Friday, Tipton responded to Satran-Loudin, “I do believe we only have one dog that jumps up on occasion, and that is the puppy, she likes to greet people.  The others are older and not able to do so.
“I do apologize if the friendly dog offends you.”

Back to Thursday’s exchanges, Tipton also sent a note to Snure about Pope’s comments: “In your capacity as Legal Counsel for our District could you explain to Mike Pope how divisive, unnecessary, and disgusting this e-mail is. This a total waste of time. There is a standard of behavior for public officials, maybe you could send Mike Pope some guidance documents to prevent this type of insulting behavior.”

Tipton is also asking the state auditor to look into the legality of paying Snure for time he spent with the district before he was formally hired. In particular he billed the district for the hours he spent traveling to Belfair and in the meeting before his official hiring and for work he did five days before he was hired.

Some of my thoughts: I don’t believe there is a legal problem with the way Snure billed the district, but if there is it is probably good that Tipton attempted to find out, whatever his motives might have been.

On the dogs, it is not uncommon to meet the dogs at district offices during daylight hours. In fact, for me it’s one of the highlights. I can’t have a dog, for now, because we’re moving and the house we’re in really isn’t suitable. But I grew up with dogs, and the ones at the district are first-rate, friendly, family dogs. They’re also bigger, so I think they probably can put their front feet on the counter. Knowing their personalities they probably would, just to see who the visitors are and whether they can get a scratch behind the ear. I can see why someone would want them there as well as why someone wouldn’t.

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